Monday, April 20, 2009

Takin' Care of Business: Loose Lips Sink Ships

This is the sixth in a ten part series called, Takin’ Care of Business – Making Work Work for You.

Let’s be honest. Gossip can be a lot of fun. Talking about who did what to whom and what happened when can really help pass the time, especially on a hum-drum work day. But gossiping can get you in trouble … lots of trouble.

When it comes to idle chitchat, clearly some topics are better than others. Television, movies, and sports, are easy topics. Good news about co-workers and friends is also acceptable conversation.

However, negative comments, rumors and speculation about co-workers is a big no-no. The closer the relation, the more potentially damaging the conversation can be. Basically, if it is someone you can cross in the hall, don’t say it. If it is someone who works for the company but at a different site, it’s still not a good person to make the subject of speculation.

When people around you start talking, it’s best not to say anything. When they ask what you think, a good response is, “I really don’t know what to say about that.” You can also turn it back on them, “You really have some strong feelings about that/him/her,” or “That sounds like a tricky situation.”

Also when trying to stay out of gossip, watch your body language. Your goal is to remain neutral. So watch for things like nodding and smiling which some people could take as agreement. If it gets to be too much, excuse yourself from the group.

Your frustration is also something you need to be careful with. Venting to a friend is a great way to release stress and get things off of your chest. Even still, it’s important to pick to who, where and when you vent. Venting to a chatty co-worker or in ear shot of other employees is a very bad idea.

When I’ve been frustrated at work, I’ve been known to grab my cell phone, go outside and take a break. While I am walking, and away from the building, I phone-a-friend, a friend that doesn’t work with me and I vent to her. This way I get to release the tension without the negative repercussions of having my words come back to bite me.

Remember, once the words are out of your mouth or you hit send on the email, you are no longer in control. You cannot control how your words are interpreted or repeated or where that email goes.

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